Review: After Love


The day after the death of her husband, a British woman, whose home is in Dover, learns about a surprise her husband left behind across the Channel in Calais. This alone is intriguing enough, but the widow is a Muslim, all wrapped up in a hijab … with striking blue eyes.

After going through her late husband’s belongings fore clues, she packs a bag and takes a ship to Calais. A sturdy, silent type, Mary Hussain (Joanna Scanlan) crosses the English Channel and checks into a lovely wallpapered French hotel room. Then she begins her quiet, surprisingly unwitting investigation as she finds the address and knocks on the Calais door.

What does she say? The woman who answers assumes she is the new cleaning woman. A perfect opportunity presents itself for research. Quietly, because she does not speak French, she takes on the job. But when not watched, she searches through the house.

As the secrets about one wrenching, betrayal, unfolds, Mary also becomes a witness to another.

While this film is not about religion, we do know that Mary is an observant Muslim who prays with devotion. How she handles what becomes evident is a testament to her spiritual strength and core moral values.

Aleem Khan, the gifted writer/director, has drawn from his own life. His British mother was also a Muslim convert. But he says that most of the rest is a fiction portraying moral dilemmas from different perspectives.

Khan has written in his press notes that he wanted to “move away from the expected, because I find that contradictions, are in fact, much closer to life, most of the time … Is it possible to possess true conviction in faith whilst simultaneously breaking its sacred laws?”

When asked why he doesn’t vilify Mary’s husband for the secret he kept, Khan responds that he had been “occupied with the idea of how truth, morality and deception intersect in relationships. We all betray ourselves, and others, in one way or another at some point.”

“After Love” is a thoughtfully stunning film. Khan was nominated for the BAFTA award for the outstanding debut by a British writer and director. The film was also nominated for most Outstanding Film of the Year. Joanna Scanlan, as the blue-eyed Muslim woman, deservedly won the BAFTA for Best Leading Actress.

During the 2021 British Independent Film Awards season, “After Love” won for Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor and Best Film. The awards are justified. There is no doubt that “After Love” was one of the most insightful films of 2022.

Rating: 10/10


Director/Writer: Aleem Khan
Cast: Joanna Scanlan, Nathalie Richard and Talid Ariss
Produced by Matthieu de Braconier
Music: Chris Roe
Cinematography: Alexander Dynan
Editing: Gareth C. Scales
Release: Jan. 20, 2023

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